What are you giving up for Lent?
Now that we have entered the season of Lent, what shall we give up?
I mulled this over and thought about the term “to give up”.
Our relationship with God is a two way flow – yet much of our lives is spent thinking about how much we receive FROM God, rather than how much we give TO God.
Blessings flow down to us, but how much goes the other way?
How much do we give back to God?
So when we speak of “giving up” does it really mean abstinence from something?
If I abstain from something I normally enjoy, such as chocolate, wine, or watching television, what does that really say about me and what does it say to God?
It seems I am saying “I know these things are potentially harmful to ME or a waste of MY time, so temporarily I will stop them”.
Isn’t that thinking more about myself than thinking about God?
What would God want me to give up? Does God care if I eat chocolate?
Perhaps we have the term “giving up” all wrong.
Perhaps the answer is not about abstinence during Lent based on an idea of giving something up FOR God, but about give up something TO God.
Every Sunday we say to God “we offer ourselves to you as a living sacrifice”, but what does that really mean to us?
To me, this is a very confronting thing to say, because it means I am offering to put myself at God’s disposal, to be used as he wishes.
Not something I really feel I can consciously do at all times, but a worthy goal to aim for.
I think that is the ultimate sacrifice that we are asked to make as Christians – to give UP TO God.
Paul writes in Romans 12 that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we can understand what it is that God finds good and what he wants us to do with all the blessings he give to us.
During Lent, as we contemplate the meanings of Easter, we learn again that the key to living is found in dying.
If you really want to live you must come to that place where you die – completely die out to your own will so that you can truthfully say, “From this point forth, not my will, but Thine be done.”
That is the key to real living.
To die out to my own selfish will and to say “For me, to live is to live in Christ.” The only way to live is to die.
So, rather than Lent being a time of self-control, we can look on it as a time of acknowledging God-control.
My challenge during Lent is to give up self-control and learn to allow God to be in control – giving up TO God.
It is customary, Lord
to give something up
during the season of Lent.
What would you have me do without?
I who have so much.
The list is endless
and I could give up all those things
for the span of 40 days
quite easily and almost painlessly.
But what difference would it make
other than making me feel ‘holier’
that my friend who makes no such sacrifice?
What would you have me do without?
I who have so much
I fear before I ask,
that the answer might be ‘yes’
and the giving up
would be all too real, Lord.
It would be difficult,
a real cross to carry for 40 days,
Thinking along these lines made me remember Matthew 22:15-22 – the passage about paying tax to Caesar.
“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.
“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” [Matthew 22:15-22]
The Pharisees aim was to trap Jesus into a rebellious reply.
Taxes during the time were levied on people who are not Roman citizens. The Israelites hated this. They hated Roman tax. They were anti-government. But they also know that it is lawful to obey authority – under the governing human laws.
The Herodians thought it was right to pay taxes. They were pro government. Pro Caesar.
That means whether Jesus gives a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, he would upset on side or the other. It seemed like a no win situation; a choice between two evils.
But Jesus confounded them by giving an extraordinary answer, an answer that we could never have thought of.
He answered with the obvious and yet the answer is also an elusive one.
Showing them a denarius, He simply asked: “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” and it was obvious who really owns the coin.
But why did Jesus have to add ‘and to God what is God’s’ – this is not really part of the question is it?
At first I thought Jesus was only trying to add God into the picture. But maybe Jesus was waiting for someone to ask “What is God’s?”
If he had been asked that, he would have answered “Where does God’s image lie?”
“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. “ – Genesis 1:27
Give to God that which is God’s. You owe Him yourself.
Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us in this hope that we have grasped;
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name.
I was created
I was given a purpose.
“Help the man”
But help him with what?
We live in paradise!
The man was told
about the tree.
I got it second hand,
“Death if you eat the fruit!”
An easy rule to follow –
Eat any delicious fruit but that.
I am created the chatty one
I will talk to anyone.
The man says little
Just “this shall be called…”
and “that shall be called”
No logic, discussion, conclusions.
Is this where my help is needed?
The serpent talks
Says more than the man.
He provokes my thoughts.
“Did God REALLY say this”
or “Really say that?”
I have only the hearsay.
God loves us
He made us perfect
He made a paradise
Where we live.
We want for nothing.
But I, I have an ordained purpose:
Help the man!
Help the man with what?
There is only one conundrum here.
It must be that!
Is this the help
God knows the man needs?
Am I to be
the first theologian?
To interpret God’s words
To explain the meaning
Knowing, as I do,
What he is like?
What is he like?
God is wonderful
He loves us
with all his heart
He wants only
whatever is good for us.
He can do us no harm.
For we are his own.
The words I heard
Are at odds
with what I know of God.
The serpent asks
“Did God say…?”
and I wonder
It makes no sense.
I had the feeling
when the man said
“Nor touch it”
that he was adding
some emphasis of his own.
I suspect he hadn’t understood.
The serpent thinks
God is hiding something.
Hiding this knowledge
of good and evil
That would make us
like God himself.
Would he do that?
How can I know?
I am his creature.
He loves me.
He created me.
I am part of him.
But would he be so,
well, miserly in his gifts?
God gives us everything
All we need
He denies us nothing
So why set a trap?
Is this the help
I am to give the man?
I think the man
Misunderstood the words.
The serpent is right.
God will not kill us
for touching a tree
And put in our path.
And if this fruit
is good for life
God will surely want us
to enjoy it
benefit from it.
Or else I don’t know
My loving God at all!
God is here
He knows all
He knows the chats we have.
If the reptile is wrong
If I am wrong
God will pop by
and gently tell us so.
I have a purpose.
I am to help the man.
Something God feels,
For whatever reason,
He has to delegate.
God made me fit for this purpose.
Gave me a brain to solve this riddle.
God saw that it was good.
If God is
Indeed a trickster
My help is needed more!
The man needs help
Is my help
To protect us from God?
Is that why God
created me as helper?
Is it possible
He loves us
But knowing his own nature
Suspects he will be tricky
and destroy us?
God loves us
He made us
In his image
Why then would he want
to deny us
a part of himself?
God made me helper
God gave me the gift
to think this through
and help the man
Who is too fearful.
The serpent is right.
Eat the fruit!
Our eyes will be opened.
I am the helper.
I will try it first
and help the man.
Oh, and the fruit is good!
Why did I doubt?
God made the fruit
Of course it is good!
I shall give some
to the man.
He knows I am his helper.
God made me to help him.
He trusts God
He trust me
Of course he eats!
Our eyes are opened
The reptile said we would.
Is this better
Than being dumb?
Well, we can’t go back.
So we must go on.
I say to the man
“God will be pleased”
But the man fears God.
Why, I cannot say.
I try to help.
I tell him
There is nothing to fear.
God loves us both.
The man knows
God sees us always.
Yet he tries to hide.
To disguise us
God is right
He really needs my help!
God finds us
Of course he does
He knows we ate the fruit.
The man dissembles.
Passes the buck.
But I am his helper.
So I explain to God.
“Your logic was tricky”
“The serpent fascinated me”
“It made sense”
I did as you asked
Did what I thought was right
in my role as helper
“You were right, God.
If was not good
for the man to be alone.
Your creation is good
you made me clever
you bade me help him
to pass this test.”
“You made a fruit
That would make us thinkers
and more like you.
You gave us choice.
We chose to eat.
We chose to be like you.
You should be pleased!”
Even as he curses us
He is secretly pleased.
But he won’t say it.
His creation is a success!
His creation can think!
His creation is wonder-filled!
We passed the test.
He sends us out
Into the world he made.
Knowing we will
His beloved children
Who he has raised
NOTE: For an interesting and insightful analysis of the meaning of the word “helper”, I recommend Marg Mowczko’s blog >>> http://margmowczko.com/a-suitable-helper/
My life was lent to me by God.
Creation is lent to me by God.
By God, I intend to enjoy both.
I think that’s what God wants.
He lent me gifts,
To fast from them would be ungrateful.
I will not fast in Lent,
Either from food or joy,
I will revel in God’s love and gifts!
Original Sin : Envy in Genesis
Once God finishes forming the universe, the Book of Genesis focuses almost entirely on envy.
Humans are, from the beginning, envious of God’s powers, as shown in Adam and Eve’s desire for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Human’s are envious of what they mistakenly believe to be God’s preferential treatment of one human over another, as in the story of Cain and Abel.
Cain believes that God has not liked his offering as much as he likes Abel’s , despite the fact that God attempts to explain to him that the problem is not with the offering but within his heart, saying “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it”.
When Abram and Sarai travel to Egypt, Abram knows he will be killed by envious men because his wife is beautiful.
Abram seems to be the first biblical personage to recognise envy for the destructive force it is and to act to prevent it. When he and his nephew Lot begin to compete over land, he sees the danger immediately and suggests a solution that will save them both from further envy.
However, Abram does not seem to foresee or prevent the envy of Sarai for Hagar once Hagar gives birth to Ishmael.
Sibling rivalry is promoted by the parents of Jacob and Esau. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Jacob’s envy prompts him to steal both his brother’s birthright and his blessing from Isaac.
Esau’s resentment of the thefts prompt him to threaten to kill Jacob, causing Jacob to flee his home.
Isaac recognises the potential for sexual envy, just as Abraham did, when he stays in Gerar. Here he tells his wife Rebekah to pretend she is his sister so he will not be killed.
He also recognises the danger of property envy when he digs wells and the herders of Gerar demand that they are theirs. He does not fight them, he simply moves on.
So Isaac, like Abraham, is able both to recognise the dangers of envy and to find a workable solution for it.
Eventually he also makes peace with his brother Esau, negating that man’s envious rage too.
Sibling rivalry is also apparent when the sisters Leah and Rachel compete for the love of Jacob. When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became envious of her sister. Leah.
After 20 years of faithful service to Laban, Jacob inspires Laban’s son’s envy with his success in breeding a bigger and stronger flock. Eventually Jacob and Laban resolve the issue of the envy by making a pact.
Yet Jacob’s desire for peace is not passed on to his sons. After the rape of their sister, Dinah, they resolve the issue with battle and bloodshed.
Jacob’s sons are so envious of their father’s preferential treatment of Joseph that they effectively sell him into slavery.
Joseph suffers greatly from the envsy of others. First his brothers, then Potiphar’s wife, and so on it goes.
The envy of sibling rivalry, started by the parents and grandparents occurs yet again when Jacob blesses two or Jacob’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, giving the firstborn blessing intentionally to the younger boy.
Is envy the fatal flaw of humans and the real meaning of “the fall”?
NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that it may be a mistake is to think of “jealousy” and “envy” as synonyms.
A little linguistic research tells me that they are not.
It seems that the more traditional definition of “jealous” is “fiercely protective of one’s rights or possessions”, whereas the definition of “envy” is “desire for something belonging to someone else”.
So, when God says he is jealous, he means that he is fiercely protective of his rights, his creation and of course, his people.
However, when Genesis characters behave in dubious ways as outlined above, it would be more correct to say they are envious, wanting something that is not rightfully their own.
I have edited the first draft to replace “jealousy” with “envy” and I thank those who pointed this out.
The Second Day of Christmas is December 26.
The feast of St Stephen, a traditional day for giving boxes of leftovers to the poor, resulting in the later name “Boxing Day”. Stephen was a disciple of Jesus known for his emphasis on generosity to the needy. He was the first Christian martyr. Stephen was stoned to death for publicly declaring that Jesus was “standing at the right hand of God”.
Acts 17:28 “In Him we move and breathe and have our being.”
We cannot hear God’s still, small voice
unless we ourselves are quiet.
To be in Christ we must find stillness
and meditate with him daily.
We must find space in ourselves
to let God in.
Surrender. Exhale. Make space.
Create space for God
and breathe him in.
“No-one puts children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land”(1)
No-one risks their own child’s life. Is this so hard to understand?
Can you imagine what it takes, to make the choice to flee?
When the life you know is blown apart, and you face the perilous sea?
When the hand of the tiny child you grip, seems slippery in your own?
Cries “too tight , you are hurting me!”, but you will not let it go.
This tiny life, this enormous love, that trusts in you to know,
What’s right to do, when’s right to leave, and where on this earth to go?
Can you imagine?
May we all be aware of the desire for peace
In East and West, in North and South.
May peace abide among us, in every heart
In people, communities, and in nations.
This is our earnest prayer.
May peace be unto all!
Time to step outside of linear time
Time that fools allow to trap their minds
Thinking time a path, when it’s a sphere
Of spheres, within and without
And around and around and all about
Flowing in all directions
turning in and back on itself.
For time is light
Composed of photons
Being created eternally
And it BOUNCES.
Everything occurs at everywhen
But we imperfect creatures
cannot experience it all at once
We cannot cope,
so we view, at light speed only
Oh, so very slow.